Many photographers and graphic designers these days still struggle with a concept of making a profit off their work online. While the images might be of the highest quality, you can’t always attract customers to your work and beat the competition with talent and creativity alone. And there is plenty of competition out of there for people specializing in this type of work.
Multiple websites sell stock images for sometimes small amounts of money, in every subject area from landscapes to food to office supplies. You might have even tried shooting pictures or designing graphics with each one of these themes in mind. But that’s where the problem often lies. If you tried attracting clients online and haven’t succeeded, you might have been spreading yourself too thin. If you really want to make a name for yourself or your business, pick a very narrow niche and become very good at it.
To become successful in a niche, you will need to study it inside and out, becoming almost as knowledgeable about the industry as the experts who work in it. For example, if you are taking pictures of wine or designing labels for the bottles, you should study the winemaking process, visit the vineyards, know the types of grapes and study the harvesting technology. When the winemakers see that you are just as interested in their work as they are, you are more likely to get business from them.
Once you have done your research and shot some photos on the subject, start networking with people in your niche. Attend their events and bring your work with you as much as possible. Expanding on the last example, you might want to attend winemaker conferences and competitions. Print some postcards of your work and give them away to people you meet. Don’t forget to include your contact information, website address and any other details relevant to your business. Wine tastings are another great opportunity to not only target the experts, but also anybody who appreciates wine.
If you are lost for ideas on what niche to pick for your photography or design business, here are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Wedding and Event Photography
Choosing a niche that corresponds with your lifestyle, preferences and hobbies is a great way to both have fun with your work and get good at it. If you enjoy the company of people, and like to socialize and attend events, you might want to look into wedding photography. If family occasions are not your style, but you still like the excitement of events and the energy of the crowd, try shooting concerts, festivals or fairs.
Even if you have already found your general niche, opting for weddings, for example, you should narrow it down even more by choosing a unique style and approach to the event. Would you rather get a traditional angle on weddings or incorporate a more fun, contemporary element? Do you prefer a documentary style or an artistic approach, where you can do a lot of close-ups of colors, clothes and decoration details? Whatever your preference, stick with it and continue polishing that particular set of skills.
2. Stock Images
Check out a couple of popular microstock websites, such as iStockPhoto, ShutterStock or Dreamstime, to get a basic idea of various stock image topics popular among buyers. Once you narrow your search down to several subjects you like doing and have the skills to do, stop by PicNiche. It’s a great tool for assessing supply and demand of various subject areas. Enter a keyword into the website’s search engine to get statistics on the topic you are considering.
PicNiche has several ratings it assigns to keywords, such as “bad,” “OK,” “good” and “niche.” It’s the “niche” keywords that you want to be looking for, with ratings of 100 and up. For instance, a search for “business people” gets a rating of 0.26, falling into the “bad” category. This simply means that there is too much competition for those words and not much likelihood of selling an image in the category. A search for “NASA photos,” on the other hand, gets a high rating of 514, which places it into the “niche” category.
Some other keywords with good ratings include acacia trees (558), car dents (2,858), koala bears (172) and iPhone 5 (1,158).
3. Computer Wallpapers
While wallpaper photography and design can be a tough market, you can still find your niche in it. This field suits particularly well for people who enjoy working with landscape images, wildlife, sunsets, city skylines and similar subjects. You will definitely want to invest in a tripod, wide-angle lens and the latest version of Photoshop if you want your wallpapers to gain popularity in the online world.
Once again, think of a really small niche that is not addressed by many other artists. There are plenty of images of mountains, rivers and bad weather, but how about pictures of hail over mountain streams? Or you can look for other unique themes, such as rope bridges or tree bark for your wallpapers.
While microstock sites are an option, you will only get several cents for each job, which is not worth the effort for most people. The better route to take is posting your wallpapers on your own website. If you don’t have the tech skills needed to build one from scratch, don’t despair. Free tools like WordPress exist that have built in functionality for uploading and managing media files like pictures.
Selling your logos to businesses is another great niche idea, especially if you are proficient in vector programs like Adobe Illustrator. To become a specialist in one area, you can narrow the idea down to either all-text or all-image logos, black and white logos or fitness themed logos, for example.
You can then post your work on different online logo marketplaces, such as VectorStock and StockLogo.com. Logomyway allows buyers to browse thousands of unique templates, get their company name placed on the logo they like within 24 hours, and purchase it directly from the designer. You should also check out Fiverr, where you can charge from $5 to $500 for your work in the website’s Logo Design category.
5. Banners Ads
Banner ads can be a great way for a designer to generate income online. If you want to become savvy in this particular area though, you will need to have some skills not only in design but also in advertising.
When designing banner ads, it’s key to know what types of colors, fonts and layouts best appeal to the buyer. So if you haven’t designed banners before, be sure to do your homework. Design catchy headlines, use convincing graphics and readable fonts, and don’t forget to include the call for action.
When selling banners, one targets clients who are already looking to spend money on advertising. They are different from wallpaper users in that they don’t normally enter “free banners” into a search engine, but look for a professional designer who will make their product sell. If you are just starting in banner design, target advertisers in your local area. Send them your sales pitch and your best samples. Everyone needs a banner these days and the local appeal of your business will help you quickly establish a client base.
6. Themed PSD Templates
If you are a Photoshop expert looking for a good niche for your business, consider selling your PSD templates. Similarly to other types of design, you can post these on multiple microsites. Look for the ones that don’t take more than half of your profit, and only use them as a starting point, until you get some regular clients.
You can also try your luck on various webmaster forums, such as TalkFreelance and Digital Point Forums, where you will get to keep all the money you make. And naturally, selling from your own web site will make certain that the bulk of the sale lands in your own pocket.
Don’t forget to find your very unique niche that will make you stand out among the crowd. You could design photography based templates, for example, or templates that are business themed.
Icons are another popular design element that no website these days can do without. If this is something that appeals to you, consider using the Envato Marketplaces, which provide multiple platforms for selling your graphics online. If you come across websites where you think your icon style would look great, contact the owners directly with the samples of your work. Alternatively, you can easily sell your icons from your own website by utilizing WordPress or a similar tool.
To create your individual niche in icon design, use lighting, shadows, outlines and other design elements to develop your unique style that you will be recognized for.
8. 3D Models
If modeling three-dimensional objects is your strength as a designer, try selling your work through the 3D Studio, Creative Crash or Renderosity, all of which offer good royalties. Choosing one subject such as cars, trees or buildings will allow you to develop your exclusive niche and make you a go-to person for that particular type of 3D model.
Be sure to also use social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and designer specific DeviantArt to promote your work and get traffic to any websites where your models are sold. This advice also applies to promoting any other photography or design work you are selling online.